Europe’s top human rights court calls for Navalny’s release
The European Court of Human Rights is demanding Russia release jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, warning in a Wednesday ruling that failing to do so would violate the top court’s human rights standards.
The legal body, which serves as the international court of Europe’s main human rights forum, the Council of Europe, said in a press release announcing the ruling that Russia must immediately release Navalny, citing the “nature and extent of risk to the applicant’s life.”
The Strasbourg, France-based court wrote that information provided by Russia, a member of the Council of Europe, on its prison conditions were contradicted by Navalny’s legal team.
According to the court, Russia stated “the applicant was being held in a properly guarded facility and that his cell was under video surveillance,” and also had access to electronic communications. The government also claimed Navalny was able to make phone calls and receive visits from his lawyers and members of the public.
The court found, however, “that the arrangements listed by the Government could not provide sufficient safeguards for [Navalny’s] life and health.”
— ECHR CEDH (@ECHR_CEDH) February 17, 2021
A Russian court earlier this month sentenced the opposition leader to a 32-month prison term after prosecutors argued he violated the conditions of his 2014 parole by not checking in while recovering from his August poisoning.
Tensions between Europe and Russia have escalated since Navalny’s poisoning with a nerve agent and subsequent recovery in a German hospital. The U.S. and other nations have blamed Russia’s Federal Security Service for Navalny’s poisoning, though Russia has repeatedly denied involvement.
The Associated Press noted Wednesday that Russia has repeatedly adhered to the European human rights court’s rulings that award compensations to a member country’s citizens challenging national court verdicts.
However, Russia condemned the court’s Wednesday decision, which marked the first time the judicial body ordered Russia to release a convicted prisoner.
Reuters reported that Russian Justice Minister Konstantin Chuychenko said Wednesday that the court’s demand was “baseless and unlawful, because it does not contain any reference to any fact or any norm of the law, which would have allowed the court to take this decision.”
Russia last year passed legislation giving its own national laws authority over international agreements and rulings, Reuters noted.
President Biden and other international leaders have condemned Navalny’s sentencing, with the European Union earlier this month threatening to impose new sanctions on Russia.
EU High Representative Josep Borrell said in an address to the European Parliament at the time that the treatment of Navalny shows the Russian government under President Vladimir Putin “is going down a worrisome authoritarian route.”